New Brunswick: Several shale gas protesters now charged after clash

Mischief, obstruction among charges laid after 40 arrested Thursday as police-protesters clashed

New Brunswick Oct 17 burnt car

Remnants of burned out RCMP vehicle, Oct 17, 2013.

CBC News, Oct 18, 2013

Eight of the 40 people arrested Thursday in a protest over land used for shale gas exploration in Rexton, N.B., have been charged following the violent clash between RCMP and protesters.

The charges Friday include:

  • Mischief.
  • Breach of an undertaking to keep the peace.
  • Unlawful confinement.
  • Obstruction.

Some of the protesters arrested will remain in jail over the weekend out of a concern for a protest revival, a Moncton court was told Friday.

A bail hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.

On Thursday, the weeks-long protest that closed a highway and blockaded SWN Resouces Canada’s exploration equipment ended in a clash between RCMP officers and protesters that resulted in . At least five police vehicles were destroyed by fire.

The first of the protesters appeared in Moncton court Friday afternoon. Court appearances are also scheduled in two other communities.

Also taking place is a court hearing in Moncton, where SWN Resources is seeking an indefinite extension to the injunction prohibiting anyone from impeding its exploration work. The company says it lost $60,000 a day while its exploration vehicles were blockaded by protesters in its vehicle compound off Route 134.

Premier David Alward said Friday that “yesterday was a very concerning day.”

“Our communities are based on and built on the laws of the land,” he said. “What took place yesterday touches every New Brunswicker and the violence that we witnesses.

“Clearly, there are those who do not have the same values we share as New Brunswickers.”

RCMP in riot gear, Oct 17, 2013.

RCMP in riot gear, Oct 17, 2013.

Alward said he was not consulted on the RCMP’s decision to take action against the protesters.

“What became clear to the RCMP is that encampment that was in Kent County was dangerous,” he said. “It provided significant security issues for the people of New Brunswick.”

Alward said he has no meeting scheduled with Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock and Coun. Robert Levi, which was indicated earlier by Levi. Sock and Levi were among those arrested Thursday.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said Friday that egotiations involving provincial officials, the protest coalition and Elsipogtog leadership seemed to be deteriorating in the days leading up to Thursday’s action by the RCMP.

“Unfortunately, over the last week or so, the discussions — as the premier indicated yesterday — he was having trouble getting in touch with the chief ,” said Leonard. “And clearly tensions were starting to escalate at the blockade and the RCMP felt it was time to move in to ensure the safety of everybody.”

Susan Levi-Peters, a protester from Elsipogtog and former band chief, says aboriginal leaders want the provincial government to consult with the aboriginal community about shale gas exploration and development in New Brunswick.

“It was a Supreme Court ruling there should be public consultation about accommodation and agreement with the government, saying there’s supposed to be public consultation, accommodation, before anything like this happened,” said Levi-Peters. “That’s all we’ve been asking.”

Members of RCMP Emergency Response Team in encampment, Oct 17, 2013.

Members of RCMP Emergency Response Team in encampment, Oct 17, 2013.

As events unfolded Thursday, First Nations elsewhere in New Brunswick established roadblocks in their communities in solidarity with the Rexton protest. Solidarity protests also took place elsewhere across the country, including Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary.

The solidarity protest movement continues Friday. In Fredericton, protesters gathered near an intersection on the Vanier Highway, a key thoroughfare leading to the Trans-Canada Highway.

Protest violence described as worrisome

Ken Coates, a historian who authored “The Marshall Decision and Aboriginal Rights” in 2000, said Thursday’s events are worrisome for all parties.

“This is one of those conflicts that has the potential to explode on a national scale,” said Coates, now a Canada Research Chair at the Johnson-Shoyama​ Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.

“It’s the kind of a standoff and a protest that generates a lot of support from other First Nations who feel they’re facing similar circumstances, who are worried about an accelerated pace of resource development that basically leaves them out of the equation or does not include them sufficiently.”

Speaking prior to Alward’s announcement that no meetings are planned with aboriginal leaders, Coates said any meeting may be coming too late.

“When you get to this point, sometimes you’ve been waiting too long and you’ve got a situation where First Nations have basically concluded ‘We’ve got nothing to lose in this regard, we can’t let this development take place because we haven’t got enough assurances that our concerns are being taken seriously,”’ he said. “And, so it actually is hard to get back from this place.

“We can’t just say we’re sorry, and shake hands and  go forward. You actually have to make some much broader commitments to finding different solutions that work for the longer haul.”

The protest on Route 134 in Rexton began on Sept. 30 when protesters erected a barricade on the road leading to the compound where SWN Resources Canada had parked its shale gas exploration vehicles. Barricaudes were subsequently established on Route 134.

A court injunction was issued on Oct. 3, ordering an end to the protest. That led to negotiations between the province, protesters and leaders from Elsipogtog, but the protest remained in place, although one lane of the highway was reopened on Oct. 12.

On Thursday, more than 100 RCMP officers with guns and dogs moved in on the protesters to enforce the injunction. SWN Resources, which said it was losing $60,000 a day due to the blockade of its exploration equipment, was allowed to remove its vehicles from the compound Thursday.

Cop blocker, Oct 17, 2013.

Cop blocker, Oct 17, 2013.

Leonard believes “outside influences had somewhat taken over the situation” at the protest.

“It got to the point where security guards looking after equipment were getting threats, there were weapons at the site,” he said. “The RCMP, while looking for a peaceful resolution, they obviously thought moving in yesterday was the proper approach to ensure safety for everybody.”

In a news release Friday, SWN said the operations the company is conducting are being done in a lawful manner.

“Our objective of being an important member of each community in which we operate compels us to continuously carry out our operations responsibly and with high standards. Our employees are dedicated to the safety of people and the environment, as well as ensuring we are in full compliance with all regulations,” senior consultant for SWN Tracey Stephenson said in the release.

Posted on October 18, 2013, in Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the
    issues. It was truly informative. Your website is very useful.
    Thanks for sharing!

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